Sunday Burgs book review
Reviewed by Alison M. Armstrong of Blacksburg. She is the collection management librarian at Radford University and on the board of trustees for the Montgomery-Floyd Regional Library.
Some books suck you in with the first tantalizing sentence; others draw the reader in slowly by getting the reader emotionally invested in a character first. While Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, “Flight Behavior,” has an interesting opening sentence, it doesn’t catch you immediately. It gets off to a slow start but, Kingsolver is letting it build. A Virginia resident, Kingsolver has impressed many with her using imagery to create a wonderful story. Some writers can write such a visually stunning way that when you look back on it, you remember images as though you saw a movie. Kingsolver is one of those writers.
If you haven’t heard about the main crux of the story and the connections to the title, I will not be the one to spoil it for you. Her descriptions and set up are done so well, you might as well read it and watch as it unfolds. Kingsolver takes her time, getting the reader emotionally invested by sharing the main character’s deepest thoughts and disappointments, but it takes her a while to get to her name. Although it takes a while to unfurl, the readers’ understanding of the main character and her life is integral to the story. In many ways, Kingsolver touches on the meeting of various cultures. Nationality, regionalism, educational backgrounds, economic backgrounds, race, familial relationships, the jaded adult’s worldview coupled with the wide eyed wonder of a child, and various ecology and environmental differences all meet in this book. For Hokie fans, Tech football makes a very brief appearance.
As with many of her novels, Kingsolver writes about a place she is familiar with. Set in southern Appalachia, the surroundings are familiar to many of us; families making difficult decisions about the family farm, the tenuousness of tight finances and complicated situations in life. Had things been different, the honor’s English student would have gone to college, found a fulfilling career, and someone who made her happy. But, that wasn’t how things happened, particularly not where the 28-year-old Dellarobia Turnbow lives.
Kingsolver’s overarching story is a commentary on the environment and change. She approached the subject using a fictional, yet probable storyline based on reality and spun off of actual events. As she indicates in the Author’s Note, it is evident that Kingsolver has done a great deal of research trying to ensure a story that is probable.
The storyline is about a woman’s life and her family, forced circumstances and “settling.” It is also about renewal and new opportunities. The amazing aspect of the story is the way it is told. Kingsolver has an incredible knack for imagery and this book is rich with symbolism. She accentuates what is going on in Dellarobia’s life by reflecting it in the environment around her. Kingsolver tells the story of a woman raising two children with a husband she is with because of circumstances, not love and, the events in her life are echoed in the ecological world around her; offering her a new perspective and new opportunities.
The story is so told in such a vivid way, Kingsolver’s imagery will stick with you long after you put the book down and, hopefully offer you a new perspective as well.
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